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With: Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Carmen Ejogo, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Jude Law, Johnny Depp
Written by: J. K. Rowling, based on characters created by J. K. Rowling
Directed by: David Yates
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sequences of fantasy action
Running Time: 134
Date: 11/16/2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Wizards of Pause

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's nice to see J.K. Rowling's incredible imagination back at work again. The second Fantastic Beasts movie (and the tenth in the overall "Wizarding World" series) has the span and depth of one of her novels. It covers a great deal of information and character development, but there's a huge difference this time. The eight Harry Potter films were adapted by other screenwriters from Rowling's novels, and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an original screenplay by Rowling alone.

At least the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) movie had the benefit of introducing things, but this sequel is far more complex, taking things to the next level. Talented writer though she is, Rowling doesn't seem to be capable of cramming what would be a 900-page book into a 135-minute movie. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald contains a great many talking sequences, full of names and things we need to know, and very few moments for breathing, or for digesting. If it were a novel, there were several spots in which I'd have had to stop and page back a bit to refresh myself on some small detail. The movie doesn't ebb and flow; it just charges ahead.

The many characters include Johnny Depp as the title bad guy Grindelwald, who wishes to organize pureblood wizards and rule the world, but he also wishes to harness the power of Credence (Ezra Miller) to destroy his old friend/foe Dumbledore (Dumbledore). (Although, frankly, I'm not exactly sure he really cares about the former thing as much as he does the latter thing.) Then there's Leta Lestrange (Zoë Kravitz), who is involved in some kind of complex love quadrangle with our hero, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), his brother Theseus (Callum Turner) — who is a member of the Ministry of Magic — and auror Tina (Katherine Waterston).

And though Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) and Queenie (Alison Sudol) are in love, they can't be together because of prejudices about wizards and humans. Claudia Kim plays Nagini, who can turn into a snake and escapes a circus with Credence. Finally (I think), there's a fellow named Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam), who shows up mysteriously and may be a bad guy, or he may not, and he may have some connection to both Leta and Credence. Follow? Damned if I can remember the names of any of the fantastic beasts, though.

As he has on the previous five "Wizarding World" movies, David Yates directs, and he seems to have a journeyman's knack for this kind of special effects-heavy moviemaking, keeping the lighting clean and the camera moving and making sure the effects are not the end-all, be-all of every shot. But he's not skilled enough to fix what's in the screenplay. Don't get me wrong... Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is perfectly good storytelling (it'd be great to read), but it's just not totally satisfying moviemaking.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray release features top-notch picture and sound (with a Dolby Atmos audio track), even though the picture is of a rather dull palette. It offers an extended cut of the film (roughly 7 minutes longer than the theatrical cut), but only in a digital version. In addition to a DVD and a digital version of the regular, theatrical cut, bonuses include three featurettes, ""J.K. Rowling: A World Revealed," "Wizards on Screen, Fans in Real Life," and "Distinctly Dumbledore," a selection of scene breakdowns and about 15 minutes of deleted scenes.

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